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Tips to Keep Your Pet Safe and Enjoy the Holidays

Tips to Keep Your Pet Safe and Enjoy the Holidays

The holiday season can be such a joyous time of year! Or it can turn you into a giant ball of stress if you have to chase your cat out of that tree one more time or stop your pup from destroying yet another ornament. Don’t let your furry pal deter you from keeping your bright and festive traditions! We’ve compiled some tips and tricks to keep your pet safe and enjoy the holidays without worry.

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Tips to Keep Your Pet Safe and Enjoy the Holidays

Deck The Halls...

… but ​not​ with holly! Did you know mistletoe, poinsettias, amaryllis, and holly can be harmful to pets? While great for adding holiday cheer, these holiday plants can cause some tummy trouble for our furry friends. It’s best to avoid them altogether or hang them at a height they cannot be reached. Some great alternatives would be spider plants, red petunias, or a Christmas cactus to add some festive cheer.

Plants aren’t the only things to be mindful of decking the halls with! Candles may offer a beautiful glow, but they can be very tempting – especially for your curious feline friends. Instead of real candles, you could opt for battery operated ones this year. Many even have flickering ‘flames,’ and you can hardly tell they’re not the real deal. Bonus: they often come with timers, so you don’t have to worry about lighting them each night! If you absolutely need to use the real ones, make sure you put them entirely out of reach and extinguish them before leaving your pet alone (or going to bed).

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Tips to Keep Your Pet Safe and Enjoy the Holidays

O, Christmas Tree!

Oliver was our most challenging cat at Christmas when it came to the tree. He went BONKERS when we set it up, running 550 MPH around the base of it, tearing under the skirt, batting at the ornaments, and climbing the branches. It was a nightmare. I frantically searched: ​how to keep cats away from the tree​. Here are some things we did:

  • Tinfoil under the tree.​ A deterrent because of the sound and feel of the foil when they attempt to walk on it. This did not work for Oliver. He dragged it away from the tree in his mouth and went back to his shenanigans.
  • Spray bottle filled with water​. You always have to be on alert and spray the cat (who hates water) when he goes near the tree for this trick. He will eventually get the hint that the tree is off-limits and leave it alone. This did not work for Oliver. We sprayed him. He ran UP INTO THE TREE to get away from the water.
  • Try the other kind of tree.​ In other words, if you have a fake tree, try a real one. Maybe the fragrance of the fresh pine will deter the cat. Or, if you have a real tree, try a fake one. Perhaps the lure of the great outdoors missing from the wiry branches will turn him off.
  • Cat Repellent.​ Spray the tree with indoor cat repellent spray. The scent should keep the kitty from thinking the tree is his own personal climbing post. This did not work for Oliver. He rolled around and laid under the tree as if nothing had changed.
  • Skip the skirt​. This is too enticing to act like a dog/cat bed. Try using one of those wrap-around buckets or baskets around the base instead.
  • Spices​. It’s rumored that cinnamon’s fragrance is a cat deterrent, and according to​, cinnamon is safe for dogs and cats. Try sprinkling some cinnamon around the tree’s base, or perch some of those cinnamon-scented pine cones in the lower branches.

Lastly, at our wit’s end, we decided to suspend the tree from the ceiling and sit back and sip our wine while we watched Oliver try to jump high enough to get up in it. KIDDING. We didn’t actually hang the tree from the ceiling. But we thought about it. And there was definitely wine involved.

All jokes (and stubborn cat antics) aside, the Christmas tree can be one of the most significant hazards (and headaches) for any pet owner during the holidays. And you may find fishing wire comes in handy to anchor your tree to the wall in case the kitty decides to climb it! Here are some other tips to help bring joy around your tree (and it’s trimmings):

  • Allow time for your pet to adjust to the tree​. If it’s fake, bring the box out for a day, take it out of the box the next day, assemble it the day after, etc. Allow your pet to explore and investigate before it’s all set up, so it’s not such an intrusion on their space.
  • Real trees can be toxic.​ This doesn’t mean you can’t have one! Just be smart about it. The water may look like a new drinking bowl, but it could cause tummy trouble. Ensure you never use any additives in the tree water, and always cover it with foil, so it isn’t accessible. The same goes for the pine needles – keep them swept up and make sure no one is trying the tree out as his new chew toy.
Tips to Keep Your Pet Safe and Enjoy the Holidays
Tips to Keep Your Pet Safe and Enjoy the Holidays
  • Ornaments? You mean toys, right?​ How is a four-legged friend to know the difference? Make sure all the holiday decorations and ornaments (especially those low-hanging ones) are safe! They should be unbreakable (no glass ornaments!) and have no small parts that could be gnawed off (sequins, beads, etc.) And no matter how tempted you may be to add sparkle and shine with tinsel or icicles… don’t do it. Many veterinarians report this as being one of the most common causes of ER visits during the holidays. They can be very dangerous if swallowed, causing severe internal damage. Holiday lights are another hazard. Keep any electrical cords up high enough that they can’t be chewed.
  • Brown Paper Packages Tied up with String?​ That will be one of kitty’s favorite things! If you’re stashing gifts under the tree before the big day, beware that it may be even more of a temptation for your pet! It’s best to skip the string and ribbon (choking hazard), and it might be wise to keep the gifts hidden until the big day, if possible. No one wants to see those shiny new holiday underwear on Fido’s head when he wrestles open that wrapping paper!

Holidays are a time for gathering with our (human) friends and families too, but no one likes a party pooper! Make sure your guests know the rules regarding your pet before they come over. Is anyone allowed to touch your furry friend? If kids will be around, how does your pet deal with them? And make sure no one is slipping a slice of pecan pie under the table to earn Fido’s affections! Always keep an eye on open doors as people come and go so your pet doesn’t sneak out or accidentally get left outside. You may even consider having a quiet and safe space for your pet to hang out during any gatherings – like a spare room with a closed door. This eliminates any stress or guessing if he is happy and safe with all the entertainment and gives him a respite from all the (human) party animals.

Having overnight guests? Check out these tips​ on how to prepare for a happy holiday hosting!

Tips to Keep Your Pet Safe and Enjoy the Holidays

If you’ve got kids (or if you’re a kid at heart), then you know one of the best parts of Christmas eve is munching on those cookies and milk left out for Santa! Just be sure you don’t ​actually leave the plate of goodies out, or they’re apt to be eaten by a four-legged friend… and I’m not talking about the reindeer!

Speaking of food… We may use the “But it’s the holidays” excuse for ourselves while indulging in that special treat, but that could end poorly for our pets. Be sure to skip the people-food and opt for a special pet-safe holiday treat instead. You can find more tips on toxic foods for your pup ​here.

O, Christmas Tree!

Now that you’re ready to decorate, entertain and enjoy the holiday season while keeping your pet friends safe, there’s only one thing left to think about: the PRESENTS! Don’t be the one that gets a train with square wheels or an ostrich-riding cowboy for a gift. Casually send your friends this list of ​great gifts for dog parents ​and cross your fingers for the one you’ve got your eye on!

ESA or PSA Certification?

The benefits of an Emotional Support Animal certification and a Psychiatric Service Dog certification are drastically different. Fortunately for you, American Service Pets’ network of active board certified doctors can help you find the right path to certification. To find out whether you need an ESA or PSD letter, take our easy, three-step Pet Owner Survey!


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